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SEE WORLDNOSING AROUND THE DOWAGER OF DIVINITIES' NEW FACE

There's no use sugar-coating the bitter truth. Mary See, 135-year-old grande dame of the soft-center set, is finally showing her age.

For one candy lover, the ravages of time recently became shockingly apparent when a box bearing See's newly wizened image showed up as a Mother's Day gift. "Land's sake!" gasped the horrified chocaholic. "What have they done to poor Mrs. See?"

See for yourself. Immaculately groomed in a severe, no-nonsense sort of way, the "old" Mrs. See--a down-home dowager who easily could be imagined doling out nougats of wisdom as she commanded her pristine candy kitchens--was a dead ringer for Mary Worth.

See's "new" look, meanwhile, suggests someone who'd be lucky to gum down a chocolate-covered cherry, much less mastermind a confectionery empire. She was variously described as appearing "rumpled," "unkempt," "puffy," "plastered," "masculine" and "senile" by participants in an unscientific New Times poll. "She looks like she's had it," commented one See watcher. Clearly, the "new" See rated a D.

In a fitness-and-youth-conscious era in which corporate mascots like the Campbell's Kids, Aunt Jemima, Bob's Big Boy, and Tony the Tiger all have slimmed down, Mrs. See's remodeled mug seems puzzling, if not downright bizarre. But even stranger, See's keepers are oblivious to the old lady's rapid decline. "We didn't change her," reports Mary Jo Scott, director of marketing for the L.A.-based See's Candies. "She looks the same as she always has."

Assured that this was not the case, Scott guessed that the difference might have resulted from a glitch in the printing process. "Maybe it has something to do with the color-separation process and all that good stuff. And what difference does it make, anyway? Believe me, no one has done anything to slim her down or fatten her up or whatever." Aw, fudge! Mrs. See, wherever you may be, stay as sweet as you are.

MECHAM GOES NOT SO GENTLY INTO THAT GOOD... v5-23-90

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Dewey Webb